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If Anything Else Comes to Mind… Better Keep It to Yourself? Delayed Recall is Discrediting—Unjustifiably

  • Aileen Oeberst
Original Article

Abstract

Inconsistencies in eyewitness accounts are perceived as indicative of inaccuracy and reduce the witnesses’ credibility. Reminiscence, the delayed recall of previously not recalled information, is generally interpreted as a type of inconsistency. Even though it does not necessarily involve the falsity of the statements, reminiscence presents a counterintuitive instance with mostly unknown reliability. Two studies empirically assessed the accuracy of reminiscent items after retention intervals of up to 1 week and contrasted them with peoples’ beliefs regarding their accuracy. In line with an implicit assumption of memory fading with the passage of time, delayed recall of previously unmentioned details was judged to be unreliable. In contrast, actual accuracy of reminiscent details was consistently high and even comparable to immediate recollections. Although participants generally underestimated accuracy, it was most pronounced in the case of reminiscence. The findings are discussed within the context of contemporary legal practice, such as jury instructions.

Keywords

Eyewitness memory Reminiscence Implicit theories Credibility Judgment 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was partially supported by Grant Number GRK 772 by the German Research Foundation. I am grateful to Ronald Fisher, Susanne Haberstroh, Ulla Martens and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this paper.

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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Human Sciences, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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